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Champions League - Football: Top 10 finals

27 May 2022 11:25:10 EST

As part of our Top 10 series, we’re looking back at the best European Cup/Champions League finals.

Let’s get started.

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10 - Celtic 2-1 Inter

Having overthrown European giants Real Madrid, Inter had become the new kings of the continent, winning back-to-back European Cups in 1964 and 1965, reaching the final once more in 1967.

They would face a Celtic side, made up of 11 players, all born within a 30-mile radius of Glasgow, and took an early lead from the spot.

Despite the catenaccio style of their Italian opponents, Celtic carved out a number of chances in the first half, hitting the bar.

They’d keep plugging away throughout the second half, and eventually got the equaliser they deserved through Tommy Gemmell.

At that point there was only likely to be one winner, as despite Inter’s frustrating style, Jock Stein’s men had too much flair and panache, finding a late winner through Stevie Chalmers, to become the first British side to lift the European Cup.

The Lisbon Lions.

9 - Man Utd 4-1 Benfica

A decade after the tragic Munich Air Disaster, Matt Busby had guided Manchester United to the brink of European glory.

Despite the absence of Denis Law, United still managed to put four past the two-time European champions.

The imperious Euesbio came close on several occasions throughout, but couldn’t find a way past Alex Stepney, with Jaime Graca cancelling out Bobby Charlton’s headed opener, forcing extra-time.

George Best would kick the glut off with a brilliant solo effort, rounding the keeper before tapping into the empty net, with Brian Kidd and Charlton adding the third and fourth.

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8 - Bayern Munich 1-1 Chelsea

The chips could scarcely have been stacked more against Chelsea than in 2012. Playing the giants of Bayern Munich, in their own back yard, with several absentees, including captain John Terry

It was the ultimate backs-to-the-wall job for Roberto Di Matteo’s men, as Bayern went close a number of times throughout the match, denied by a combination of Petr Cech and their own wasteful shooting.

It seemed that if they were going to come out victorious, Chelsea – who looked like they had 10 men at times, such was Bayern’s dominance – would have go the full 120 minutes, and when Thomas Muller headed in after 82 minutes, there was surely no way back.

Didier Drogba didn’t get the message. A 10/10 header, powered in at the near post forced extra-time. The hero threatened to become the villain, when Drogba brought Franck Ribery down in the area, with Arjen Robben given the task of scoring from 12 yards. 

The former Chelsea player was denied by Cech, and spot-kicks loomed, with Drogba scoring the decisive penalty.

Not for the first time, Bayern Munich had dominated a Champions League final and failed to lift the trophy…

7 - Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid

Oh to have been an Atletico Madrid fan over the last decade. You’ve seen your team crack the Barcelona/Real Madrid duopoly to win two titles, win the Europa League twice and even reach a couple of Champions League finals.

Unfortunately for both of those, they had the agony of losing to their most bitter rivals in the most bitter of ways.

Losing on penalties in 2016 was bad enough, but 2014 was perhaps worse.

Despite losing Diego Costa to injury after just nine minutes, Diego Godin rose highest to head Atleti into a lead, a lead they held until the 93rd minute of the game, when Sergio Ramos powered a header of his own home, forcing extra-time.

There was only one winner at that point, with Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo adding goals in the second half of extra-time, as Real completed La Decima.

6 - Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

Though it may not have had as many goals as some other games on this list, that was in no way a reflection of the game, but more the quality from Petr Cech and Edwin van der Sar.

Cristiano Ronaldo gave Manchester United the lead, who had chances to double their lead, but were punished when Michael Essien’s twice defelected shot landed in the path of Frank Lampard.

The second half saw Dider Drogba hit the post with Lampard hitting the bar in extra-time, Drogba later sent off for a slap on Nemanja Vidic as penalties loomed.

Captain John Terry had the chance to win the Champions League with his spot-kick, but after losing his footing, he hit the post, with Van der Sar later saving from Nicolas Anelka, as United were champions again.

5 - Milan 4-0 Barcelona

Widely written off before the game, the 1994 Champions League final saw Milan produce one of the competition’s biggest upsets.

With Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta both suspended, Marco van Basten out injured, likewise the then-world record signing Gianluigi Lentini, Fabio Capello also had to leave out Brian Laudrup, Jean-Pierre Papin and Florin Radicioiu due to UEFA’s three foreign players rule at the time.

As such, Barcelona – whose side featured the likes of Ronaldo Koeman, Pep Guardiola, Romario and Hristo Stoichkov – felt supremely confident of victory; manager Johan Cruyff even claimed that their opponents were nothing special, and that it was impossible for them to lose.

He’ll have likely reconsidered that prediction when 2-0 down at half-time thanks to a Daniele Massaro brace. Dejan Savicevic put the game to bed with an audacious lob after half time, with Marcel Desailly scoring a fourth inside the hour, as Milan cut their opponents to ribbons, matching the biggest margin of victory in a Champions League final.

4 - Benfica 5-3 Real Madrid

By 1962, Real Madrid’s early dominance of the European Cup had been ended by rivals Barcelona, with Benfica lifting the trophy in 1961. The following season, Madrid reached the final once more, where they encountered champions Benfica.

The five-time winners took a 2-0 lead with Ferenc Puskas scoring, before Benfica hit back with two quick-fire goals of their own.

Real retook the lead as Puskas completed his hat-trick – his second in Champions League finals – to give Los Blancos a 3-2 lead at half-time.

But the Portuguese side once again hit back, as a brace from a 20-year-old Eusebio, both long-range efforts, saw them run out 5-3 winners.

3 - Man Utd 2-1 Bayern

Manchester United’s fairytale season looked to be ending in despair. Up against it from the off with Paul Scholes and Roy Keane suspended, Mario Basler wrong-footed Peter Schmeicehl to give Bayern an early lead, and from there things only threatened to get worse.

The Bavarians created chance after chance, hitting the post and the bar, while United hardly had a sniff of their opponents’ goal.

But it only takes a moment to change the game, and when the talismanic Lothar Matthaus was removed from the game, United started to throw caution to the wind, ultimately winning a corner in the 90th minute.

Failure to clear the danger allowed Ryan Giggs to send the ball goalwards, with Teddy Sheringham sweeping home a dramatic equaliser. And in the blink of an eye, from another David Beckham corner, Sheringham nodded on to fellow sub Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who poked home.

2 - Real Madrid 7-3 Frankfurt

The kings of the nascent European Cup, Real Madrid, had won the first four iterations of the tournament when facing Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960 .

A record crowd in excess of 125,000 people crammed into Hampden Park as Richard Kress gave the Germans a surprise lead.

Sure enough, with a footballing masterclass, Los Blancos came roaring back, with the irrepressible Francisco Gento terrorising Frankfurt with his pace and trickery, with legendary forwards Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas both scoring hat-tricks. Puskas added a fourth to give Real a 7-1 lead, Frankfurt scoring consolation goals through Erwin Stein.

1 - Liverpool 3-3 Milan

The old cliché that football is a game of two halves rings true for no game more than this one.

This was not a classic Liverpool side by any means, and had the misfortune of facing Milan side littered with star players from 1-11. Carlo Ancelotti’s men tore through Liverpool in the first half. It took less than 60 seconds for Paolo Madini to fire Milan ahead. Kaka was utterly devastating, with Liverpool needing a miracle at 2-0, never mind 3-0, which in truth could have been four or five.

Dietmar Hamann was brought into the midfield at half time to provide some much-needed resolve, and within a six-minute period, the Reds were level. First Steven Gerrard sparking life into the Reds, with Vladimir Smicer’s driven effort giving Liverpool a genuine chance, and when Gerrard went down in the area, Xabi Alonso stepped up. His initial effort was saved, scoring at the second attempt.

A shell-shocked Milan got their legs back and had more chances, with a heroic double save from Jerzy Dudek in extra-time ultimately forcing penalties.

Dudek, inspired by Bruce Grobbelaar, was the hero, as Liverpool made it five in Istanbul.

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